Travel Reference
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found. You can sweep past startled slower drivers and caravans in the Land Rover, too, in
other words; you just have to remember to slow down for the bends.
And you can do things to them; customise them, fit what is, in effect, chunky Landy
jewellery to them, like ladders up the back, wading snorkels up the front, vehicle-long
roof-racks, foot-plates on the wings so you can stand on them without scratching them,
dinner-plate-sized driving lights, rear spotlights, front towing hitches (they pretty much
all have rear towing hitches). There's even stuff you can do yourself if you're not utterly
mechanically incompetent; I took off its four wee spring-loaded side-steps all by my-
self and replaced them with beefy-looking running boards over a year ago and they still
haven't fallen off yet. On the inside, the long-wheelbase ones in particular let you stow
vast quantities of junk in them. This is a vehicle with almost no conventional cubby holes
or storage bins to speak of; what it has instead is a ludicrous number of nooks and cran-
nies, once you start looking for them, mostly behind and under its many, many seats.
And you can fit a winch, the better to extricate yourself from awkward ditch-in-
volving situations where even your low-ratio, differential-locked four-wheel drive and
mud-plugging tyres won't get you out of your sticky predicament. Or so I'm told. Per-
sonally, I've never used the winch for that, but it has come in handy for boat-pulling-
out duties and once got our old Drascombe Lugger (that's a boat, honest, not rhyming
slang) onto the trailer and then the trailer out of the sea in circumstances probably no oth-
er vehicle but a tractor would have prevailed in.
The only trouble with all the ironmongery up front is that you're making an already
deeply pedestrian-unfriendly vehicle even more lethal. Of all the things on the road you
don't want to walk out in front of, a tooled-up Defender must figure pretty near the top of
the list. The first thing you'll hit - no, let me correct that; the first thing that will hit you -
is an industrial-looking winch capable of hauling five tonnes or so attached with extreme
rigidity to a beefed-up bumper you could hang a lifeboat off which is in turn bolted to an
exceptionally sturdy steel ladder chassis which is attached to everything else. There is no
give there, anywhere.
('Does this thing have crumple zones?'
'Yes. They're called other cars.')
In the Defender's defence, all I can say is that, realising all this, you do tend to drive
even more carefully, especially in towns, given the sort of mess you could make of other
people or lesser vehicles if you hit one.
The impressive view is useful here. Being so high up gives you a much better idea of
what's going on between and beyond parked cars and, on the open road, helps with plan-
ning overtaking manoeuvres. The Defender's windscreen starts about where most cars'
roofs top out and from a Defender - especially one like ours, fitted with tall 750 series
tyres which would hardly look out of place on a tractor - you even get to look down
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